Green Narrows Race

Tommy Hilleke won his fifth Green Narrows Race with a time of 4 minutes and 34 seconds, a new record for the race through Class IV and V whitewater, with rapids like Frankenstein, Go Left or Die, and Gorilla. He was paddling in the long-boat division, for those with boats longer than 8 feet 6 inches.

Hilleke was followed by Chris Grattmans at 4:40 and John Grace at 4:44. All three top finishers were paddling Prijon Tornados, the boat of choice for those in the long-boat division of the race. Grattmans went on to win the “LePlant Ironman,” which was a select group of paddlers who ran the race in both divisions. His combined time was 9:577.

Eric Jackson, paddling in his first-ever Green Narrows Race, took first place in the short-boat division, for boats under 8 feet and 6 inches, with a time of 5 minutes and 5 seconds. He was paddling a Jackson Kayak Super Hero, as were the next two finishers in the short-boat division, Clay Wright and Chris Stafford. Stafford tied for third with Bo Wallace.

Some 70 paddlers competed in the race, called the most extreme race in North America. Between 350 and 500 spectators hiked in to the spectacular gorge near Asheville, North Carolina to watch the race.

Paddlers hike in as well, and put in a ways above the race starting point. It’s a race against the clock, so they go off from the start at one minute intervals and are clocked in at the end of the race as well.

Race organizer Jason Hale issued a report, “The Race According to Hale”: “Thank you everybody but I would like to thank Al Gregory for getting us the water. It was a nice guarantee. I would also like to thank Liquidlogic and Astral Buoyancy for the awesome free food and party at Liquidlogic. Dixie Marree, Christie Dobson, Jessie Rice and Molly I wanna thank you BIG BIG for the time keeping. Let’s not forget a huge thank you to the elusive Todd Grafe for the beautiful piece of Glass that we all crave so much. Here are some stats, results to follow. – Tommy Hilleke won the 10th Annual Green Narrows Race with a new record of 4:34, 1st place. – Tommy has now won 5/10 green races. Ouch. – Eric Jackson won the 8’6 class with a 5:05, 11th place overall and only 31 seconds behind Tommy. Open Class next year? – Keith Sprinkle won the Hand Paddlers Division with a 5:43, 38th overall – Robin Betz won the Ladies division with a 5:52, 45th overall.”
Hale’s full report is available at

Eric Jackson also wrote up the event on his Web site: “When I got to the starting line, the eddy above Frankenstein was jammed with racers really doing the battle cry there! I got there just in time to see Clay (Wright) take off with his trademark 150 strokes/minutes for the first 30 strokes as he disappeared into Frankenstein. There was a one-minute interval between racers. Just long enough for everyone to talk to the boater they were jammed up against for a few seconds, and then turn their attention to the paddler in the starting line, cheer them on for their start, watch them round the corner, then bump around in the eddy again. I am glad I came into the eddy with only 10 minutes before my start time of 12:19. I synchronized my watch with Jason Hale’s (the official watch) so that I could time myself in the race, and so I wouldn’t stress about missing the start. I jumped out of my boat, stretched a little (to eat up time really, you can only visualize running Gorilla so many times in a row) and then got in with 2 minutes to go.”

Go to his site to read the whole thing – it’s a stroke-by-stroke account of running the race and a wonderful insight into the course.

Race results are available at .